"It's an ironic tragedy. She had everything going for her."
- Joshua Freilich, Imette's sociology professor at John Jay College
It was the 24th of February 2006. A Friday. Twenty four year old Imette St. Guillen was out with her friend Claire Higgins in the Bowery area of NYC. Imette was a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, New York, United States and was due to graduate in two months time. She was out that night celebrating her upcoming twenty fifth Birthday.
Imette and Claire were friends from high school and went to a few different bars that night. The two women argued and Claire went home at 2.30am. Imette decided to stay out at the Pioneer Bar. Claire called her a half hour later and by that time, Imette had left the Pioneer Bar and moved on to another bar. That was the last time Claire heard from Imette.
Later that Saturday night, the 25th of February, 911 received a call from a male who wished to remain anonymous. The call was made from a diner in Brooklyn and the caller informed the dispatcher that there was a body lying along the road outside of nearby Spring Creek Park. On foot of that call, police found a body. It was Imette. Her naked body was bound, plastic ties were around her wrists and shoelaces around her ankles, and she was wrapped in a bedspread. Her hair had been cut. There was a sock stuffed in Imette's mouth and packaging tape was wrapped around her head. There were lacerations on Imette's genitalia.
Imette St. Guillen
Imette had been raped, strangled and suffocated. What happened between the time Claire called her to when her body was found?
Police tracked Imette's movements and discovered that after the Pioneer Bar, she went to The Falls bar. Police spoke to the manager there, a man called Daniel Dorrian. Daniel initially was hesitant to provide a lot of details but he eventually told police that Imette had been there in the early morning hours of the Saturday morning. According to Daniel, the bouncer, Darryl Littlejohn, was asked to escort Imette out at 4am as it was closing time. Daniel said that he heard them arguing and they left the bar via the side door. Other witnesses saw Darryl walk out of the bar with Imette but when police spoke to him, he told them he didn't know where Imette went after that.
Police had access to Darryl's DNA as it was on file from a previous bank robbery conviction. Blood found on the plastic ties used to bind Imette was a match to Darryl.
He was arrested and charged with first degree murder.
It was the Prosecution's case that Darryl was a sexual predator with a propensity for pretending he was a law enforcement officer. The Prosecution told the Jury that before Imette's murder, Darryl kidnapped a twenty year old woman, Shanai Woodard,in 2005. The Court heard that in that case, Shanai was walking home at 4pm and saw Darryl. Darryl was wearing a law enforcement uniform of dark blue police pants, jacket, cap, belt, handcuffs and gun. The shirt appeared to have a police logo and the words Fugitive Agent.
Darryl stopped Shanai and asked her for identification.He handcuffed her hands behind her back and pushed her into a blue van. Shanai knew something was wrong and managed to throw herself from the moving vehicle and call for help. When Darryl was arrested in relation to Imette's case, Shanai recognized Darryl and police searched his van. DNA from both Shanai and Darryl were found in the van and on the handcuffs recovered during the execution of a warrant.
The Court heard that the same month that Shanai was attacked, another student was attacked too. In that case, a twenty two year old woman was approached by Darryl as she exited the subway in Queens. The woman believed he was a law enforcement officer based on his clothing. Darryl asked her for identification and her hands were handcuffed behind her back and she was pushed into a vehicle and driven on Queens Boulevard towards Jamaica.
When Darryl stopped driving, the woman's head was covered with a jacket and she was taken into a room. A black knit cap was secured to her face by tape and she was handcuffed to a bed. She was raped and forced to perform oral sex on him. He then rinsed her mouth with alcohol and mouthwash. That crime remained unsolved until after Imette's murder.
It was the Prosecution's case that this showed a pattern of escalating behavior and each attack involved Darryl abducting a woman who was walking alone. The two women were not killed by Darryl in the first two attacks and the Prosecution believed Imette was murdered because she knew where he worked and would have been able to identify him.
Imette St. Guillen
It was the Prosecution's case that after Darryl was asked to escort Imette from the bar, he abducted her and brought her to his basement home in Queens where he raped her. He wrapped tape around he face and head and bound her wrists and ankles. At some point during the attack, the Court heard that Imette fought for her life. Her fingernails were broken and her hands were bloodied. The Prosecution believed that the blood found on the ties that bound Imette's wrists together came possibly from a nosebleed that Darryl had. When he was questioned by police, he also had scratches on his neck.
The Prosecution told the Jury of the cell phone evidence they had against Darryl. Records put Darryl's cell phone near where Imette's body was found. His cell phone could be traced from his Queens home at 5pm to the area where Imette's body was subsequently found an hour later.
The Court heard that just after 7pm on the Saturday night, Mamadou Ceesay, a security guard on his way to work at a construction site on Fountain Avenue saw a light-colored Ford van with tinted windows. The van had no license plates and the headlights were off. He couldn't see anyone in the van as the windows had a dark tint but saw what he believed to be the glow of a cell phone being held to a person's ear. That description of the van matched Darryl's van.
The anonymous 911 call was made at 8.43pm that night.
The Court heard that fiber analysis on the bedspread and tape wrapping Imette's body and the van were found to be consistent with carpet fibers, rabbit hair and mink fur from items in Darryl's home.
It was the Defense's case that Darryl was innocent and he was being set up.
Defense attorney, Joyce David, claimed that Darryl was framed so that the real perpetrator could be protected. They argued that Darryl was chosen as he had a lengthy criminal record. They alleged that the manager of The Falls bar, Daniel Dorrian, was the person who killed Imette. It was their case that he was part of a powerful family with ties to the former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The Court heard that Daniel came from a wealthy and well-connected family with a long history in New York nightlife and the Defense argued that he may have accidentally killed Imette after a night of sexual domination play and asked his family for help to cover it up.
Daniel testified at the Trial and acknowledged that he initially wasn't forthcoming with investigators about kicking out Imette at closing time due to the bad publicity he knew the bar would receive. But he denied being involved in Imette's murder.
It took the Jury less than seven hours to find Darryl guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and was also given a 25 year-life sentence for the kidnap of Shanai.
Imette's family later brought an action against the federal government. It emerged that Darryl should not have been working as a bouncer at the bar that night as he had a parole curfew of 9pm and furthermore, he was supposed to be supervised as that was part of his conditions when he was released. They settled the suit for around $130,000.
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